Carmen Dell’Orefice—“The Quintessential Vogue Woman”

Vogue Patterns, March/April 1998

Vogue Patterns, March/April 1998. Click to enlarge

With all the fuss in the press recently about older models in the fashion world, you would think this issue was only invented in the new millennium. However, product lines aimed at the older set have long tried to find beautiful women of a certain age to sell their goods.  One of the most successful is Carmen Dell’Orefice (1931-), who started modeling with Vogue magazine when she was in her teens. Today in her eighties, she still sometimes walks the runway.

I first recognized Dell’Orefice on the cover of Vogue Patterns in 1960.  She started showing up again in the 1980s, when she was in her fifties, modeling clothes aimed at older women. Although she had a figure that most of us would envy, her once auburn hair was turning white.  When the Vogue Woman Collection was launched in the 1990s, she was a frequent model for the line.

Vogue Patterns, January/February 1997

Vogue Patterns, January/February 1997. Click to enlarge

In 1997, Donna Gould did a piece for the magazine called “Carmen!” with the subtitle “She is, quite simply, the quintessential Vogue Woman.”  In it we learn that she herself is a seamstress, “sewing with Vogue Patterns for so long that she can cut basic pieces without using a pattern.” In the article, she comments that she was able to wear a green chiffon dress that she had made in the 1960s to a recent evening event.  “If something as right on you originally,” she is quoted as saying, “then it will always look right.”  (Yes, if it still fits, I thought.)

And why is there no Carmen Dell-Orifice, or someone like her, in Vogue Patterns today?

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3 Responses to Carmen Dell’Orefice—“The Quintessential Vogue Woman”

  1. Rhoda K says:

    I agree and remember her well. There was another “mature” model that Vogue used quite a bit, but I can’t remember her name. She had short, prematurely white, hair.

  2. I was reading about Carmen Dell’Orefice just last night, in Model Woman: Eileen Ford and the Business of Beauty, by Robert Lacey. In October 1947, “she was “Vogue’s youngest-ever cover girl,” barely sixteen. Her single mother, a seamstress, made her clothes from Vogue patterns, and they lived in a 4th floor apartment without a telephone. “When I got paid for a job, it meant we could pay the power bill for another month….” How wonderful that she became a model known for her elegance.

  3. Jen O says:

    These 2 posts on Vogue patterns are great. I was lucky enough to meet Carmen at a conference about this time, where she shared her story with us. Even then she was amazing, a vivid and elegant woman who commanded attention and admiration. I also want to hear back from you on the topic of Vogue patterns for the adult woman–where did those go? Considering how many of the patterns are still around, it might be interesting to try sewing up one of the pants patterns, whose style is somewhat resurfacing right now (if your photos of Donna Karan’s new line are any indication).

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